Real Solutions, Real Results in School Discipline Reform
Restorative justice, peer courts, an end to out-of-school suspensions... This isn't "touchy-feely" stuff as proponents of zero-tolerance discipline policies would have it. These are real, systemic solutions to the pushout crisis in school discipline that is barring students from the classroom and disproportionately denying students of color and students with disabilities a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.
A recent article in Education Week takes an in-depth and fascinating look at how districts across the country are beginning to integrate these new approaches and the positive effects they're having on school climate and student success.
Take this example of a peer court at Davidson Middle School in San Rafael, CA, and 7th grader Jacob Watenpaugh, who came to school with a small knife in his backpack. Rather than suspending him and risk Jacob falling behind in classwork or feeling alienated from the classroom, school officials put him in front of a group of his peers who had been trained to help him talk through his decision and get him back on track:
"Classmates peppered the 7th grader with questions about why he thought bringing a knife to school was OK and whether he considered that it would be dangerous if someone else found it. They delved into his academic record, too, noting his lagging grades in science and mathematics. They questioned his choices of company and wondered if he was making bad decisions. His "sentence" was to write a paper on bringing knives to school and decisionmaking, 20 hours of community service, and five tutoring sessions each in science and math. Jacob had 21 days to finish the tasks or be suspended."
Read more about restorative practices in schools here.